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Windham to begin seeking bids for master plan project

WINDHAM — The town is seeking bids for the development of its first master plan in nearly a decade.

During Monday night’s meeting of the Windham Board of Selectmen, Community Development Director Laura Scott asked the board to waive the bid process for the initial phase of master plan development and award the contract to Southern NH Planning Commission.

Scott said Phase I of the project is already accounted for in next year’s proposed town budget, noting that the initiative would be null and void if voters reject the budget at the March 11 polls.

“Based on the prices that have been quoted to me and the price in our budget, I believe no other firm will come in any lower,” Scott said, noting the $13,300 price tag of the initial phase.

Town Administrator David Sullivan said he supported Scott’s suggestion.

“This is an organization we’re already working with and they have a lot of our data already,” Sullivan said. “And I have an educated hunch that it would be much more expensive to go elsewhere.”

The Community Development Department hopes to kick off the new master plan process in late April.

Selectman Ross McLeod said he was hesitant to waive the bid process.

A motion by Selectman Kathleen DiFruscia to waive the process failed, with McLeod and fellow Selectmen Roger Hohenberger and Al Letizio all voting no.

McLeod, who used to serve on the Planning Board, recalled the wide range of bids received by the town when officials put their most recent master plan out to bid in 2003.

“I’m not entirely convinced that we can’t do better,” he told Scott. “And I’m certainly not willing to spend upwards of $40,000 based on your idea that we can’t do any better.”

Scott reminded him that the entire master plan has yet to be budgeted.

She noted that the initial price quoted by Southern NH Planning Commission is low compared to the master plan recently completed by the nearby town of Londonderry, which cost over $100,000.

Londonderry’s master plan, completed in 2012, was the work of the private firm Town Planning and Urban Design Collaborative.

Planning Board member Vanessa Nysten said her board had very little input so far in the master plan process.

“I’d personally like to hear from the people available to potentially help versus relying entirely on the community development director,” Nysten said.

Resident Dan Guttman, who is seeking a seat on the Board of Selectmen, agreed.

“We should consider the value as well as the final cost,” Guttman said. “We need to look into exactly what we’re getting.”

With the board’s decision made, Scott said the project would be placed out for bids over the next several weeks.

“I don’t see any harm in having this go out to bid,” Letizio said. “Because if these guys really do have the best product at the best price, we’ll probably end up going with them anyway.”

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